Jörg Niewöhner Patrick Bieler Maren Heibges Martina Klauser


This paper introduces the notion of ‘phenomenography’. Phenomenography is an ethnographic research practice that attempts to combine practice-theoretical approaches (praxiography) to investigations of human-environment-technology relations with phenomenological perspectives on knowing and experiencing these relations. It is rooted within relational anthropology (Beck, 2008). The paper introduces a set of basic premises guiding phenomenography before relating four short empirical sequences the analyses of which suggest specific analytical sensitivities: mind, brain and body in social interaction; knowledge and experience in psychiatric treatment; reproductive technologies in shaping sociality and kinship; (digital) infrastructures’ impact on ways of being-in-the-world. The paper concludes by defining phenomenography as a collaborative research practice that aims to curate concepts jointly with research partners and that aims to provide a new form of reflexivity within anthropology. 



phenomenography, relational, practice theory, motes of being-in-the-world

Barad, K. (1999) ‘Agential Realism. Feminist Interventions in Understanding Scientific Practices.’ in Biagioli, M. (ed.), The Science Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, pp. 1-11.

Bateson, G. (1972) Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Beck, S. (1997) Umgang mit Technik: Kulturelle Praxen und kulturwissenschaftliche Forschungskonzepte. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Beck, S. (2007) ‘Globalisierte Reproduktionsregimes. Anmerkungen zur Emergenz biopolitischer Handlungsräume.’ in Beck, S., Cil, N., Hess, S., Klotz, M. and Knecht, M. (ed.), Verwandtschaft machen. Reproduktionsmedizin und Adoption in Deutschland und der Türkei. Berlin: LIT, pp. 12-31.

Beck, S. (2008) ‘Natur | Kultur. Überlegungen zu einer relationalen Anthropologie.’ Zeitschrift Für Volkskunde Vol. 104, No. 2, pp. 161-199.

Beck, S. (2010) ‘Wissen und Soziale Ordnung. Eine Kritik der Wissensgesellschaft’, Working Paper Collaborative Research Centre 640 at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Beck, S. (2012a) ‘Biomedical Mobilities: Transnational Lab-Benches and Other Space-Effects’, in Knecht, M., Klotz, M. and Beck, S. (ed.), Reproductive Technologies as Global Form. Ethnographies of Knowledge, Practices, and Transnational Encounters. Frankfurt: Campus / University of Chicago Press, pp. 357-375.

Beck, S. (2012b) Ecologies of expertise. Exploring Expertise: Uncertainty, Knowledge, and Trust in Democracies. Lichtenberg Kolleg, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.

Beck, S. (2013a) ‘Embodiment and Emplacement of Cognition - praxistheoretische Perspektiven’, in Breyer, T., Etzelmüller, G., Fuchs, T. and Schwarzkopf, G. (ed.), Interdisziplinäre Anthropologie. Leib - Geist - Kultur. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag, pp. 195-232.

Beck, S. (2013b) ‘Kohärenz und Emergenz. Durkheim und die Sozialanthropologie’, in Bogusz, T. and Delitz, H. (ed.), Emile Durkheim. Soziologie - Ethnologie - Philosophie. Frankfurt/M: Campus, pp. 291-317.

Beck, S. (2015a) Digitale Praxis. Digitale Praxen. Frankfurt am Main, https://www.academia. edu/10952692/Von_Praxistheorie_1.0_zu_3.0_oder_wie_analoge_und_digitale_Praxen_relationiert_werden_sollten.

Beck, S. (2015b) ‘The Problem of Expertise: From Experience to Skilful Practices to Expertise. Ecological and Pragmatist Perspetives’, European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 8-23.

Beck, S. (2015c) ‘Von Praxistheorie 1.0 zu 3.0 – oder: wie analoge und digitale Praxen relationiert werden sollten’, keynote lecture, ‘Digitale Praxen’ conference at Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main, 19. – 21.2015

Beck, S., Cil, N., Hess, S., Klotz, M. and Knecht, M. (ed.) (2007) Verwandtschaft machen. Reproduktionsmedizin und Adoption in Deutschland und der Türkei. Berlin: LIT.

Beck, S., Hess, S. and Knecht, M. (2007) ‘Verwandtschaft neu ordnen. Herausforderungen durch Reproduktionstechnologien und Transnationalisierung’, in Beck, S., Cil, N., Hess, S., Klotz, M. and Knecht, M. (ed.), Verwandtschaft machen. Reproduktionsmedizin und Adoption in Deutschland und der Türkei. Münster und Berlin: LIT, pp. 12-31.

Beck, S. and Niewöhner, J. (2006) ‘Somatographic investigations across levels of complexity’, BioSocieties Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 219-227.

Beck, S., Niewöhner, J. and Sørensen, E. (2012) ‘Science and Technology Studies. Eine sozialanthropologische Einführun’, Bielefeld: transcript.

Bentley, A.F. (1941) ‘The Human Skin: Philosophy’s last line of defense’, Philosophy of Science 8, pp. 1-19.

Bister, M., Klausner, M. and Niewöhner, J. (2016) ‘The cosmopolitics of ‘niching’. Rendering the city habitable along infrastructures of mental health care’, in Farias, I. and Blok, A. (ed.), Urban Cosmopolitics. Berlin, New York: Routledge, pp. 322-329.

Bourdieu, P. (1996) ‘On the Family as a Realized Category’, Theory, Culture & Society Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 19-23.

Boyer, D. (2015) ‘Reflexivity Reloaded. From Anthropology of Intellectuals to Critique of Method to Studying Sideways’, in (ed.), Anthropology Now and Next. Oxford: Berghahn
Books, pp. 91-110.

Boyer, D. and Hannerz, U. (2006) ‘Introduction. Worlds of Journalism’, Ethnography Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 5-17.

Callard, F. and Margulies, D.S. (2011. ‘The subject at rest: Novel conceptualizations of self and brain from cognitive neuroscience’s study of the ‘resting state.’ Subjectivity Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 227-257.

Desjarlais, R. (1994) ‘Struggling Along. The Possibilities for Experience Among the Homeless Mentally Ill’, American Anthropologist Vol. 96, No. 4, pp. 886-901.

Dewey, J. (1980 [1934]) Art as Experience. New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

Dolphijn, R. and Tuin, I.v.d. (2012) New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies. openhumanitiespress.org, Open Humanities Press: 195.

Dörner, K. (1995 [1972]) ‘Was ist Sozialpsychiatrie?’ in Finzen, A. and Hoffmann-Richter, U. (ed.), Was ist Sozialpsychiatrie? Bonn: Psychiatrie-Verlag, pp. 83-90.

Edwards, J., Franklin, S., Hirsch, E., Price, F. and Strathern, M. (ed.) (1999) Technologies of Procreation: Kinship in the Age of Assisted Conception. London: Routledge.

Fleck, L. (1935/1979) Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Franklin, S. (1997) Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception. London: Routledge.

Franklin, S. and McKinnon, S. (2001) Relative Values: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Hacking, I. (2006) ‘Kinds of People: Moving Targets’, British Academy Lecture. London: 18.

Hahn, H.-P. (2015) ‘Die geringen Dinge des Alltags. Kritische Anmerkungen zu einigen aktuellen Trends der material culture studies’, in Braun, K., Dietrich, C.-M. and Treiber, A. (ed.), Materialisierung von Kultur. Diskurse, Dinge, Praktiken. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, pp. 28-42.

Haraway, D. (1988) ‘Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective’, Feminist Studies Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 575-599.

Hasler, F. (2012) Neuromythologie: eine Streitschrift gegen die Deutungsmacht der Hirnforschung. Bielefeld: transcript-Verl.

Hutchins, E. (1995) Cognition in the Wild. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Ihde, D. (1979) Technics and Praxis. Dordrecht, Boston, London: Reidel.

Ingold, T. (2000) The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling & Skill. London, New York: Routledge.

Klausner, M. (2015) Choreografien psychiatrischer Praxis eine ethnografische Studie zum Alltag in der Psychiatrie Zugl Berlin, Doctoral dissertation, Humboldt-Univ, Berlin: Transcript-Verl.

Klausner, M., Bister, M., Niewöhner, J. and Beck, S. (2015) ‘Choreografien klinischer und städtischer Alltage. Ergebnisse einer ko-laborativen Ethnografie mit der Sozialpsychiatrie’,
Zeitschrift Für Volkskunde Vol. 111, No. 2, pp. 214-235.

Knappett, C. and Malafouris, L. (ed.) (2008) Material Agency: towards a Non-anthropocentric Approach. New York: Springer.

Knecht, M., Klotz, M. and Beck, S. (ed.) (2012) Reproductive Technologies as Global Form. Ethnographies of Knowledge, Practices, and Transnational Encounters. Frankfurt: Campus/ University of Chicago Press.

Knecht, M., Klotz, M., Polat, N. and Beck, S. (2011) ‘Erweiterte Fallstudien zu Verwandtschaft und Reproduktionstechnologien: Potentiale einer Ethnographie von Normalisierungsprozessen’, Zeitschrift für Volkskunde Vol. 107, No. 1, pp. 21-48.

Kuhlen, A.K., Allefeld, C. and Haynes, J.-D. (2012) ‘Content-specific coordination of listeners’ to speakers’ EEG during communication’, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 6, pp. 266.

Kuper, A. and Marks, J. (2011) ‘Anthropologists unite!’ Nature Vol. 470, No. 7333, pp. 166-168.

Latour, B. (2005) Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Law, J. (1994) Organizing Modernity. Oxford: Blackwell.

Law, J. and Mol, A. (ed.) (2002) Complexities. Social Studies of Knowledge Practices. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Lock, M. (2015) ‘Comprehending the Body in the Era of the Epigenome’, Current Anthropology Vol. 56, No. 2, pp. 151-177.

Lynch, M. (2013) ‘Ontography: Investigating the production of things, deflating ontology’, Social Studies of Science Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 444-462.

Marcus, G.E. (2010) ‘Contemporary Fieldwork Aesthetics in Art and Anthropology: Experiments in Collaboration and Intervention’, Visual Anthropology Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 263-277.

Mol, A. (2002) The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Niewöhner, J. (2015a) ‘Epigenetics: localizing biology through co-laboration’, New Genetics and Society 34, No.(2), pp. 219-242.

Niewöhner, J. (2015b) ‘Infrastructures of Society (Anthropology of )’, in (editor-in-chief ), J.D.W. (ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Vol. 12. Oxford: Elsevier, pp. 119-125.

Niewöhner, J. (2016, in press). ‘Co-laborative anthropology: crafting reflexivities experimentally,’ in Jouhki, J. and Steel, T. (ed.), Analysis and Interpretation. Helsinki: Ethnos, pp. 81-125.

Niewöhner, J. and Beck, S. (forthcoming). ‘Embodying practices: the human body as matter (of concern) for social thought’, in Littig, B. (ed.), Practice Theories and Their Methodologies. Berlin: Springer.

Niewöhner, J., Kehl, C. and Beck, S. (2008). ‘Wie geht Kultur unter die Haut - Und wie kann man das beobachtbar machen?’ in Niewöhner, J., Kehl, C. and Beck, S. (ed.), Wie geht Kultur unter die Haut? Emergente Praxis am Schnittfeld von Medizin, Sozial- und Lebenswissenschaften. Bielefeld: transcript, pp. 7-28.

Pickering, A. (2010) The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rabinow, P. (1992) ‘Artificiality and Enlightenment: From Sociobiology to Biosociality’, in Crary, J. and Kwinter, S. (ed.), Incorporations. New York: MIT Press, pp. 234–252.

Rabinow, P. (2004) Anthropos Today. Reflections on Modern Equipment. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rabinow, P., Marcus, G.E., Faubion, J.D. and Rees, T. (ed.) (2008) Designs for an anthropology of the contemporary. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Roepstorff, A. (2013) ‘Why Am I Not Just Lovin’ Cultural Neuroscience? Toward a Slow Science of Cultural Difference’, Psychological Inquiry Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 61-63.

Roepstorff, A. and Frith, C. (2012) ‘Neuroanthropology or simply anthropology? Going experimental as method, as object of study, and as research aesthetic’, Anthropological Theory Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 101-111.

Roepstorff, A., Niewöhner, J. and Beck, S. (2010) ‘Enculturing Brains through Patterned Practices’, Neural Networks Vol. 23, No. 8-9, pp. 1051-1059.

Scheper-Hughes, N. (1995) ‘The Primacy of the Ethical. Propositions for a Militant Anthropology. (= Objectivity and Militancy: A Debate, Part II)’, Current Anthropology Vol. 36, No. 3, pp 409-440.

Schmiedebach, H.-P. and Priebe, S. (2004) ‘Social Psychiatry in Germany in the Twentieth Century. Ideas and Models’, Medical History Vol. 48, No. 4, pp. 449-472.

Schneider, D.M. (1968) American Kinship: A Cultural Account. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Sørensen, E. (2009) The Materiality of Learning: Technology and Knowledge in Educational Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Strathern, M. (1988) The Gender of the Gift. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Strathern, M. (1992) After nature: English kinship in the late twentieth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Strathern, M. (2002) ‘Not giving the game away’. in Gingrich, A. and Fox, R.G. (eds.) Anthropology, by Comparison. London, Routledge, pp. xiii-xvii.

Timmermans, S. and Haas, S. (2008) ‘Towards a sociology of disease.’ Sociology of Health & Illness Vol. 30, No. 5, pp. 659-676.

Tsing, A. (2000) ‘The Global Situation’, Cultural Anthropology 15, No. 3, pp. 327-360.

Verran, H. (2013) ‘Engagements between disparate knowledge traditions: Toward doing difference generatively and in good faith’, in Green, L. (ed.), Contested Ecologies: Dialogues in the South on Nature and Knowledge. Cape Town: HSRC Press, pp. 127-161.